It’s getting kids to eat what parents serve that causes so many problems.

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DINA ROSE, PhD is a sociologist, parent educator and feeding expert empowering parents to raise kids who eat right.

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Entries in Fruit (16)


The Power of "Fruit"

Q1: Which contains more fruit, Strawberry Pop-Tarts or Mott's Apple Juice?

Think that's a trick quesiton? Tempted to say, "neither?" Well here's the shocker: the Strawberry Pop-Tarts win because they have trace amounts of dried strawberries, dried pears, and dried apples. The Motts Apple Juice? Nada.

Source: depositphotos

  • Of course, the Pop-Tarts are loaded with sugar. My quick count reveals at least 4 different kinds of sugar. 
  • But here's the thing: the Mott's Apple Juice contains only water, sugar and Vitamic C. In other words, it's vitamin-fortified sugar water. Read Water vs Punch and Soda.

Q2: Which is healthier, Strawberry Pop-Tarts or Mott's Apple Juice?

If you're like most people, you'll say it's the juice. And on some dimensions, you'd be right. After all, the Pop-Tarts are loaded down with preservatives.

But here's something else....

Research shows people think products that contain "fruit sugar" otherwise known as "fruit concentrate," are healthier than products that contain plain old sugar. It's the power of symbolic wording.

Here's one study.

Participants were asked to evaluate two children's cereals that were identical in every way except:

  • One label said "sugar." 
  • The other label said, "fruit sugar." 

(The study was conducted in a German-speaking part of Switzerland where they call fruit concentrate fruit sugar.)

Participants consistently evaluated the "fruit sugar" cereal as healthier than the "sugar" cereal. Even people who were rated as being health conscious were just as susceptible to this belief.

You know the power of marketing. And that marginal foods can benefit from the health halo emanating from healthy foods.

The health halo isn't limited to fruit. For instance, adding yogurt to raisins, nuts or pretzels can make them seem healthier. In reality, though, that yogurt coating is some combination of partially hydrogenated palm kernel oil, whey powder, yogurt powder and sugar. YUM! Read Is "Yogurt-Covered" Really Yogurt?

But consider this...

One reason consumers are swayed by the fruit health halo is the pressure to get fruit into our kids makes us do crazy things.

Use "Fruit" To Teach Your Kids Healthy Eating Habits

1. Talk to your children about food in terms of the kinds of food they are and the habits they produce, not what ingredients they contain.

In this model, muffins are cake, juices are sugary beverages, fruit strips are candy.

2. Don't ban muffins (or cakes), juices (or sugary beverages) or fruit strips (or candy).

Think about proportion (how often your kids eat different kinds of food). Teach your kids to eat these treats infrequently. (Yes, that daily muffin habit has got to go.)

3. Stop talking "up" fruit. Just start eating it.

The real stuff. And the more often, the better.If you must talk it up, talk about how tasty it is, not how healthy it is. Read Fruits and Vegetables at Every Meal and Every Snack--Every Darned Day.

4. Educate your kids about the health halo marketing strategy.

Research shows that parents can disrupt (though not eliminate) the influence marketers have on our kids. Read Revealing the Truth in Advertising.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~

Source: Sutterlin, B. and M. Siegrist. 2015. “Simply Adding the Word "Fruit" Makes Sugar Healthier: the Misleading Effect of Symbolic Information on the Perceived Healthiness of Food.” Appetite 95: 252-61.


Moving recess to before lunch increases fruit and vegetable consumption

Having recess before lunch increases fruit and vegetable consumption!

Don't you just love it when researchers study— and then discover—the obvious?

Hmmm...let's see...requiring kids to take a fruit or a vegetable doesn't increase consumption, but making sure kids are extra hungry before lunch does. 

When lunch is scheduled before recess, kids are encouraged to minimize eating time. And that usually means cutting out the fruits and vegetables.

This is especially true for kids who value playing and running around.

Two takeaways for feeding kids at home:

  1. Structural changes can have a big effect. For instance, sometimes feeding children dinner at 4:30 solves all the evening eating/meltdown/control struggle problems. (Still want a family dinner experience? Let kids eat their dinner early, so that you're not fighting about snacks and then let your children eat dessert when the adults eat.)
  2. Often parents inadvertently create an incentive for children to do the opposite of what we would like them to do. One example that comes to mind is the strategy of providing an appealing after-dinner snack that kids really like. This encourages some children to skip (or minimize eating) at dinner. After-dinner/before-bed snacks should be acceptable but not preferred.

Moving recess to before lunch increased the number of fruit and vegetable servings by 65% in one study.

It also increased the percentage of children eating fruits and vegeatbles by 69%

Other benefits schools have reaped from moving recess to before lunch:

  • More food being eaten overall (decreasing, presumably, excessive afternoon hunger that often leads to poor academic performance and unhealthy snacking).
  • Less wasted food.
  • Calmer lunchroom atmosphere.
  • Decrease in disciplinary problems.

And remember, changing the timing of recess is free. 

As are the structural changes you can make at home!

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~

Source: Price, J. and D. R. Just. 2015. “Lunch, Recess and Nutrition: Responding to Time Incentives in the Cafeteria.” Preventive Medicine 71: 27-30.


The 52 New Foods Challenge: Change the Way Your Kids Eat Forever!

If I were ever going to write a cookbook, it would be a lot like this one, The 52 New Foods Challenge: A Family Cooking Adventure for Each Week of the Year, with 150 Recipes by Jennifer Tyler Lee.

It's like Jennifer has been living inside my head for the past decade! I'm not joking.

You know how I'm always talking about the importance of reducing pressure? About using variety to lay the foundation for new foods? About how teaching kids about the sensory properties of foods eliminates fear and resistence?

Well, it's all in there. Concrete, practical steps. (Use it as the handy compendium to my book!)

The 52 New Foods Challenge is not so much a cookbook as it is a how-to guide:

  • How to get kids used to the idea of trying familiar foods in new ways.
  • How to create an engaging game that makes children eager to try new foods.
  • How to help your children explore food with all their senses: sight, smell, touch, sound and taste.
  • How to get your kids into the kitchen.
  • How to reduce tension around the table so you can stop being a dictator and start being a teammate.
  • How to help your kids feel safe around unfamiliar foods.
  • How to leverage your children's intrinsic motivation to be healthy eaters.
  • How to use rewards effectively.
  • How to stage meals to encourage veggie consumption.
  • How to shop, cook and plan meals efficiently and effectively.

And then, as if that weren't enough, The 52 New Foods Challenge, actually provides recipes!

Not hard, complicated recipes. Easy and tasty ones.

Here's the plan:

Every week your family picks one new food to taste test. One new food. That's not so hard. And then there are a handful of recipes for each new food so your family can sample it multiple ways.

The book is organized seasonally so you'll be trying foods that are fresh, easily available, and which you're probably already in the mood for. 

  • Fall calls for families to try foods like sweet potatoes, pumpkin and brussels sprouts.
  • Winter is all about kale, leeks, Asian pears, quinoa.
  • Spring will move you onto asparagus, zucchini, strawberries and cherries.
  • Summer introduces corn, peaches, lavender and chickpeas

Get your copy of The 52 New Foods Challenge here.

My family has a pretty diverse diet already, but I have to say that this book put a little more spring into our step.

Reading this book reminded me about foods we like but which I rarely buy—foods like leeks. And while I had a quibble or two about the guidelines for families, this book has already helped us break out of the go-to recipe rut.

Last week my family made Brussels Sprouts Chips. They're like Kale Chips...only a teensy bit better.

We all dove into this dish with gusto—and huge smiles. 

You should definitely try making this. Here are Jennifer's directions (page 77).


Brussels Sprouts Chips


1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.

2. Using your fingers, peel away the leaves from the sprouts.

3. Place the leaves on a rimmed baking sheet. Add 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Toss to combine.

4. Bake for 10 minutes, then toss the leaves in the pan. Reduce the heat to 250° F and bake the sprouts for 15 minutes more, or until the leaves are crispy and almost burnt. Let your kids watch closely to figure out the best timing for your oven.

Jennifer's tip for peeling the leaves: Cut off the ends, turn the sprouts over and gently pry the leaves away starting at the stem. Keep trimming off the ends as you go to make it easier to peel off the layers. This takes patience (and time), but it's a fun activity for your kids. As you get closer to the center, the leaves will become too tight to peel, so simply save the small pieces for sautéing or roasting.

Recipe reprinted from The 52 New Foods Challenge: A Family Cooking Adventure for Each Week of the Year, with 150 Recipes by arrangement with Avery, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright (c) Jennifer Tyler Lee, 2014

Want to know more about The 52 New Foods Challenge: A Family Cooking Adventure for Each Week of the Year, with 150 Recipes by Jennifer Tyler Lee?

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~